Many companies are inspired by a dream or a vision to make a difference in some way. For company founder, Fatuma Abdullah, the Kenyan-born visionary behind Akiki Distributors, aka Akiki Dolls, that dream came in the form of storytelling and creating dolls that embodied her vision of a new normal in Africa.
LoA had the pleasure of meeting with Fatuma Abdullah this month and learning so much more about this visionary entrepreneur with a real life mission.
What does your company do?
Currently, I am my company, so I make and distribute brown dolls known as Akiki Dolls. I am an author and have published my first children's book on Akiki (the character) - Akiki’s short stories. For now I make the dolls and publish children's books on Akiki.
"The dream for my company is to see Akiki become the new normal across Africa. I am an advocate of a positive image of the African child."
What inspired you to start your company?
My daughter inspired me to start my company - that and the fact that I became a conscious brown parent. In most cases unconsciously we replicate our parents’ style of parenting. Many times I catch myself speaking and say "I sound just like my mum". In my case that’s not a bad thing. But for parents, particularly African parents, I want them to consciously have their children play and read about brown skinned characters like Akiki. Characters the children can journey with, the same way we grow up journeying with Disney characters. The dream for my company is to see Akiki become the new normal across Africa. I am an advocate of a positive image of the African child.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
My dolls and books are for parents who want to celebrate their daughters and guide them to become outstanding human beings. It starts with acceptance and self love at a young age through the materials we give to them and what we expose them to consciously or unconsciously. Akiki is about positivity, acceptance and self-love.
"For parents, particularly African parents, I want them to consciously have their children play and read about brown skinned characters like Akiki."
Tell us a little about your team
The business is still in its infancy, so officially I am a one person team, but I have the great support of family and friends. My daughter (7yrs) is my cheerleader. For now, I am now working with a local publisher to get more books published and am working with a local seamstress to expand Akiki's wardrobe.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
My dad was an entrepreneur, he grew his company incredibly but with the growth he made some poor decisions that caused the company to gradually spiral downwards. I have learnt a lot by looking at him as an entrepreneur. Initially, when I had the concept of creating a brown doll, I didn't think of it as being an entrepreneur. I was very risk averse so I was working with colleagues and juggling a 9-5 job. Clearly, it didn't work out. So when I was no longer working and the concept was still nudging me, I threw caution to the wind and embarked on creating Akiki. It has been such an enlightening journey, discovering more about myself and what it takes to start up a company. It’s a continuous learning curve. I have learned to motivate and constantly affirm myself. Mistakes are no longer a crime, the crime is not learning from your mistakes. Constantly taking steps out of my comfort zone and shutting out the white noise. Initially, I was terrified about competition but I am learning - competition should not destroy you, but instead make you better and work harder. I firmly believe there is room for everyone on this journey if you keep giving your best. My philosophy is to get up, dress up and show up. I believe in living in the present and working on the now. I read books on business, self development and spiritual growth to keep me focused.
"My dolls and books are for parents who want to celebrate their daughters and guide them to become outstanding human beings."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
I want to build an empire with Akiki, just like Disney did with Mickey Mouse.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
I feel like I am contributing to humanity by living my purpose. Through the Akiki Doll and Akiki's Short Stories, I am sending out positive energy, impacting both children and parents positively. I feel like I have stepped out of the average box.
"Akiki is about positivity, acceptance and self-love."
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
You'll never know unless you try, so just do it.
There is no such thing as failure, there are only learning experiences.
As women I think we tend to be very harsh on ourselves, so give yourselves a break - do you and be you.
Contact or follow Akiki Dolls
Why LoA loves it….
For many women entrepreneurs, success comes as a result of 80% passion and 20% sheer hard work and determination. If there’s one thing that Fatuma Abdullah exudes it’s real passion for her mission, her vision and her products. She is committed to making a difference and has found a way of harnessing her unique skills-set for writing and creating, to connect with her audiences and customers to get a powerful message of positive image building across. --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa